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banner Monday, 4 September, 2000, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
White House race on home straight
Gore supporters
Gore supporters turn out during his round-the-clock tour
The US presidential race has shifted into top gear on the traditional Labor Day holiday, with opinion polls showing the two frontrunners neck and neck.

We're doing this on Labor Day because you're what this campaign is all about

Al Gore speech to workers
With nine weeks to go, Democratic hopeful Al Gore and Republican George Bush embarked upon an exhausting schedule, mindful that the candidate in the lead on Labor Day usually wins the election.

Al Gore and running mate Joe Lieberman undertook a "workathon" tour through several key battleground states.

And Republican challenger George W Bush was set to launch the final phase of his campaigning with appearances in six states in one week.

In an election year, Labor Day traditionally marks the start of the final sprint toward the White House.

Meeting the workers

Mr Gore's weekend tour included five separate stops in just over 24 hours, and the emphasis was on meeting working people.

Gore addrseses builders
Mr Gore aims his campaign at the workers
The trip began at a construction site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he addressed union members working on a hotel construction project.

"We're doing this on Labor Day because you're what this campaign is all about," he told another group of night-shift workers.

Arriving in Florida on Monday, Mr Gore chatted with waitresses at all-night coffee shop and Mr Lieberman went to a bakery.

They will later go on separately to Labor Day rallies in Pittsburgh and Detroit. Mr Gore is to end the day by addressing supporters in Louisville, Kentucky.

George W Bush
George W Bush has seen a change in his poll fortunes
George W Bush is making a Labor Day appearance in Illinois, before moving on during the week to Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio.

Like Mr Gore, he will be giving priority to states which are regarded as hanging in the balance.

Close race

The Bush campaign team says the Republicans will use the crucial last stretch of campaigning up to 7 November to highlight sharp policy contrasts with the Democrats.

Mr Gore has been ahead of Mr Bush in most surveys since 18 August - the day after the close of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

A Newsweek poll on Friday showed Mr Gore on 49% to Mr Bush's 39% - with Green Party nominee Ralph Nader receiving 3% and the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan 1%.

But other polls show the two main contenders in a dead heat.

Gore led Bush in Gallup's 18-19 August poll by 47% to 46%. But Bush regained the lead in an 24-27 August poll by an similar 46% to 45% margin.

TV debate

Mr Gore on Sunday dismissed a proposal for televised pre-election debates from his Republican rival, saying the format was unacceptable.

Ralph Nader with rubber chicken
Chicken in hand, Ralph Nader says the others are afraid to debate
Texas Governor Bush proposed five nationally televised pre-election debates - three presidential and two vice-presidential.

But Mr Gore said Mr Bush was resisting rules set by the presidential debates commission - which call for the three major US networks to broadcast the events in prime time.

Mr Bush sought to have a second debate hosted by one network and a third one broadcast on cable television.

"It's not fair to the American people to try to sharply reduce the number of people who will see the debates," said Mr Gore, who is viewed by observers as a more experienced debater.

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04 Sep 00 | Election news
No clear leader on Labor Day
23 Aug 00 | Election news
Conventions give US race momentum
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